When I tell people how much I love Hawaii I often hear, “Oh, it is so expensive.” They aren’t wrong. There is a lot that is expensive in Hawaii but, it is the natural beauty of the island that created the demand for the expensive things. You can find the beauty in Hawaii at little to no cost. Here are my five, Fabulous, Free Things to do on the Big Island.
Fabulous Free Things to Do on the Big Island #1 – The Beaches
The beaches in Hawaii are open to everyone. There are some that are state parks and have a nominal ($5) fee for parking but the rest are there just waiting for you, even the beaches at the expensive resorts like the Four Seasons and Mauna Lani. You may be thinking, “don’t those people paying for expensive rooms mind sharing their beach?” They probably don’t even notice. The catch to going to the beaches at the expensive resorts is that there is VERY limited parking. You want to get there early so get a spot or, later after people have headed home. There are lots of beaches with plenty parking too. You can find them on maps or if you are up for surprises, just turn in anywhere you see a beach access sign. One of our favorite activities when we stay in Waikoloa on the west side of the Big Island is to have a beach hopping day. We pace a lunch and go to 4 or 5 beaches. Each beach has its own distinct characteristics. Some are rocky. Some are sandy. Some have big waves and some are calm. Make sure you leave a day during you stay for seeing some of the wonderful beaches Hawaii has to offer.
Fabulous Free Things to do on the Big Island #2 – Lava Tube
About 10 miles north of the Kona Airport, on the east side of the road (the right side as you drive north from the airport), is a large lava tube. It isn’t as big as the Thurston Tube in Volcano National Park, but you don’t have to drive to the south end of the island either and this one is free! If you are adventurous enough, you can climb down and through the tube. There are no lights like in the Thurston Tube but since this one is shorter, it isn’t pitch black and while there are no steps or hand rails, my 7 and 9 year old grandchildren did it with ease. If you aren’t familiar with what a lava tube is, it is where a bubble of air developed and created a space as the lava cooled. Think of it like a lava cave. If you fly into Kona or are staying on the Big Island this is a great way to spend an hour.
Fabulous Free Things to do on the Big Island #3 – Waipio Valley
Located on the northeast corner of the island, is the Waipio Valley. Once the home of some Hawaii’s earliest settlers, the valley is a breathtaking examples of Hawaii’s beauty. The settlers abandoned the valley long ago because of its frequent floods, but the valley is still the home of heirloom taro plants and sacred sites. You can look at the valley and read about its history from an overlook or if you are fit enough, you can hike down and back. You can pay for horseback or ATV tours but the sites are free if you are willing to hike.
Fabulous Free Things to do on the Big Island #4 – Black Sand Beaches and Sea Turtles
On the south end of the island, near Volcano National Park is a stunning black sand beach. I have been there 3 times and each time we have seen at least 2 or 3 sea turtles sunning themselves. There is plenty of parking here and covered tables with restrooms available. The beach is in a bit of a cove so the waves crash up over lava rocks at the entrance to the cove. We were on a tour bus on our first visit to this beach, and my husband was so enthralled we almost missed the bus. I would definitely mark this as a great place to have a picnic and spend a few hours.
Fabulous Free Things to do on the Big Island #5 – Mauna Ke Observatory
There is a reason I saved this for last. Watching sunset and the stars come out at the Mauna Ke Observatory is a MUST DO!!!! and its FREE!!!!! Like the beaches at the expensive resorts, parking is limited so, plan to get there an hour before sunset. You can pack chairs and snacks to stay comfortable while you wait but most importantly dress warmly and bring blankets. You will be 9,000 ft above sea level and it will be chilly. In addition to the amazing sights you can see with your own eyes, there are two or three large telescopes and helpful employees to let you know what you are looking at. When we were there on of the sights was Jupiter and its rings. It was so clear my 7 year old grandson was sure it was a picture and not the real thing. He has a spirited discussion with the attendant who charmed him with fun facts about Jupiter and our solar system. It was one of my grandson’s favorite activities and has been added to our must do list for each trip.
You can spend a lot of money on a vacation in Hawaii but you can also have a great time enjoying the natural beauty that the island has to offer. I hope these suggestions help you have a great balance of both.